Mark Shriver says losing election was ‘big blessing’

Despite being a member of political family royalty, Mark Shriver says he now thanks his lucky stars that he lost the biggest race of his career.

In 2002, Shriver, the son of 1972 vice presidential candidate Sargent Shriver and Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy, was narrowly defeated by Rep. Chris Van Hollen in Maryland’s Democratic primary. Shriver says at the time, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow: “I think it’s tough. You know, any defeat is hard. But it actually ended up being the best thing in my life. It gave me the last 10 years of my life to spend it with my mom and dad as they aged and died, and to be with my kids.”

The 48-year-old dad of three, who bears a striking resemblance to some of the most famous members of the Kennedy clan, details some of those moments spent with his dad in his new book, A Good Man. Sargent Shriver died last year at age 95 following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

At a release party last week for the book — hosted by Tammy Haddad, Fred and Genny Ryan, Constance Milstein and Susan and David Axelrod at The Jefferson Hotel in downtown Washington — Shriver explained the pressures of his political lineage, which he describes as a kind of “Kennedy claustrophobia” in his writing: “It’s taken me awhile to kind of grow through that. I think that growing up with a lot of eager cousins in a very competitive athletic environment — but also competitive environment academically, socially — I kind of felt compelled in that area. But now I don’t think so. I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

Right now what he’s doing is staying far away from Capitol Hill, serving as senior vice president of U.S. programs for the charity organization Save the Children.

Although he says of his loss in that primary a decade ago, “You can go back into politics but you can’t have the last 10 years of your parents’ life again.” 

And there seem to be no hard feelings between Shriver and his former primary foe, Van Hollen. The congressman was eyed giving a hearty handshake to a beaming Shriver at the book party.